Summary: Annie and Mitchell learn to face the long nights together. (spanning Series 1 & 2, with minor spoilers)
Disclaimer: It's all yours, Toby.
At night, without the hunt to distract and allay him, Mitchell's memories came back in full colour. Faces, places, feelings, over and over, around and around.
Worse still, though, were the nights when his thirst was strong, and his desire to hunt nearly overpowering.
His nights were, frankly, more haunted than he cared to admit.
And now, irony of ironies, he had a ghost friend whose company seemed to alleviate it.
He had come home thirsty. Not thirsty. Thirsty.
He had tried to shield his eyes. Not for his sake but for hers.
She had put him straight to bed and plied him with thick coffee. Decaf, obviously, because it was after one in the morning. (In earlier days, before learning that he detested the stuff, it would have been chamomile.)
"You go… into yourself when this happens," she was saying, though he could still hardly hear her over the pounding in his head. "You hide yourself away—but you don't need to. We're here for you. I'm here for you. We're… we're like your life support. I mean, we're all each other's life support."
What was the hour? It seemed quite late. Surely George was asleep. Annie was perched on the edge of his bed, facing him as he leaned against the headboard with his knees pulled up toward himself and his head in his hands. How long had they been sitting here in the dark? Was that coffee still around somewhere?
The pounding was subsiding now, finally. He looked up into her eyes. Lovely in the moonlight. Something in the darkness to focus on, shining.
She had taken his hands—when?—and now he unfurled his fingers and entwined theirs together. Something to hold on to. And he held on tightly—more tightly than he'd ever held Annie, he observed. He was squeezing now, and yet… and yet she seemed… well, fairly substantial. Moreso than usual. Or perhaps he just wasn't used to this kind of contact. And perhaps he was more sensitive than usual at the moment.
Was she talking? Yes, her mouth was moving, and the muscles in her neck… What a slender neck she had, under that mop of curls, and what an exquisite collarbone… Pity about the lack of pulse, though… no, not a pity—a relief… Had she been talking for a while now? He hadn't been listening at all, but now the pounding was gone, and the talking began to register. A good sign.
"Break my fingers much?" Annie joked in a whisper, referring to their entwined hands—which Mitchell was still gripping. "…is what I would say if I was still alive, and could feel what you're doing right now." She chuckled, and then sighed again.
Now he snapped out of it for good, for the time being. His mouth felt dry, but somehow he formed words. His voiced creaked a bit. "Now, now. You can see me, and talk to me. I can see you. I see you. Okay? So no more wallowing."
"You're the one who's wallowing," she chuckled into his vest. "That's why I came in here in the first place."
"Oh, fine, we're both just big wallowers then. Typical vampiric activity. Typical ghostly activity too."
"It's really true, isn't it."
"Well. S'pose so. … In any case, thanks… for being here."
"Remember Tim?" Annie asked. She and Mitchell lay side-by-side on his bed, on their backs, looking up at the ceiling as though it was a starry sky.
"The baby? Yeah. But his name was Rufus."
"Right. Whatever. Anyway I'm just remembering him. His little white hat. How he liked scary stories." She sighed.
"You're a kook."
She shoved him a bit with her shoulder. "I'm not. I just… I s'pose I'm just thinking about what my life might have been, if I'd lived. Sometimes I think about that. I try not to, but it comes back to my mind. I can't help it."
"And you were thinking about kids."
She looked down at her hands and began to fiddle with the folds of her grey jumper. "Well."
"You would have been a great mother, you know."
"Aww, don't. You're just saying that."
"No, I'm not. Yeah, you want me to say it—" (and here he grinned at her just as she shot him a frown—charm always at the ready, like a shield) "—but it's still true. You would have been… warm. And, just, sweet."
"Oh, thanks for that compli-sult." She shoved him again.
A few more minutes of silence. Or maybe an hour.
"You would have been an adorable dad, Mitchell."
"I can just picture you, with a couple of kids climbing all over you, and you're getting annoyed with them, but really you love it. I can just see them pulling on your hair and hiding your hat, and your keys. And you picking them up and slinging them over your shoulder."
"I hope these are four-year-olds you're imagining, because I don't think I could lift more than one pre-pubescent at a time. Two, max."
"Oh, they're definitely four. Maybe six, or eight. Rambunctious boys. I don't know why I'm picturing you with boys, but there you go. … And I think they love football, and Vin Diesel."
"You wanted boys, didn't you?"
"Yeah… How'd you know that?"
"I don't know, you said it once."
"Well. Yeah, I did want boys… Oh God, you're right. This dwelling stuff is bad. I feel like time… expands… when I wallow. It's the nearest thing to quicksand I'll ever experience, I think. Or a bottomless pit."
"I wouldn't have minded being a father."
"What? Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. You did take quite the shining to Bernie."'
"I mean, I never had time, obviously, and I don't think I ever had the right person, the right… teammate—" (he nudged her a bit—she was one of his life teammates, after all) "—for that sort of thing. But if I did, yeah—well, not worth thinking about, I guess."
"Of course it's worth thinking about. Anything that ties you to your humanity, your human self, is worth thinking about."
"Fine," Mitchell said, with the corner of a smile escaping his stern mouth, "you want to do this, let's do this. What I thought about kids, when I was a human, if I ever thought about it, was that I'd maybe make it out of the war, and that if I did, I'd go home to see my family, stay with my sisters and their husbands and wee ones for a while—will you listen to that accent coming straight back!—and they'd probably set me up with one of the girls from up the hill. We'd gone to church together as kids. What was their name? … Shaughnessy. The Shaughnessy girls. Red hair, the lot of them. So then I'd probably be doing the farming thing with me da' and me sons, a pack of rowdy gingers. Or girls. Maybe they'd've been girls. And maybe they'd've inherited this mess of black hair instead. Still farmers, though. Or maybe they'd've run away to the city. Or… actually, I haven't accounted for the other wars. So who's to say. It's all a bit moot, isn't it. Then after about fifty years of that, I'd die a proper death and they'd mourn me and put me in the ground where I belong."
Annie smiled a bittersweet smile. The whole thing seemed completely separate from the person she knew as Mitchell. She sighed and spoke.
"Well, you already know what I thought was in store. This house. George's room for a nursery. My room for the home office, so I could keep up with my design stuff. Owen off doing business-y things. Adorable kids watching 'The Sound of Music' on repeat in the living room. Two, maybe three of them."
"Well, they probably would've been just as adorable as you imagined, but you're well shot of Owen. I'm sorry you never got to have kids, truly, if you wanted them, but I'm very glad it didn't happen with that tosspot."
"Yeah." There she went again, clamming up and wringing her hands and her soft sweater.
"Oh, come here," Mitchell said, putting his arm around her shoulders and pressing his cheek to her hair. "No tears. No regrets. How did we let ourselves get so regretful? It's not good for us. Not to mention it's not good for the wiring in the house."
He paused, and she could feel him start to grin. "George's room for the nursery, you say? With all those gnomes and everything?"
"Hey, it's child-friendly. It inspires thoughts of fairy tales. Better than in here, with this… bizarro, early '90s deco thing happening," Annie laughed, waving at the wallpaper."
"You're a bit too high-and-mighty to be an 'angel in the house', you know. Though you are very good at the domesticity bit."
"Well you're a bit too… volatile for my taste, but we could have worked that out. Good to have a stable parent and a fun parent. Plus, I bet you weren't so up-and-down when you were human."
"Oh, 'up and down', am I? You're the one breaking the china and blowing the fuses! Anyway who said I would've wanted the angel in the house anyway. A warm, friendly face and a cup of strong coffee would do the trick."
Mitchell had been smiling at Annie, but he wavered momentarily. Something was beginning to go amiss in this conversation. He knew he meant what he was saying, and he appreciated the honesty and the banter, but… what? Something felt a little too close to home.
"I'd be happy just with someone who wasn't an abusive twat. … Someone strong, but still jolly."
"We're being regretful again. Let's cut that out, shall we? Look, the sun's starting to come up. Let's just…"
He trailed off, but he knew Annie was with him. With him here, but also with him on stopping short of that fuzzy line they'd just approached. How had that happened?
Annie always leaves fairly quickly in the morning, after sleeping in Mitchell's bed, as if she's embarrassed and/or purposefully trying to avoid doing what anyone (George, presumably) might see as… luxuriating… in bed… with Mitchell. Well, fair enough.
If she wanted a good, old-fashioned lie-in, it'd have to be on the couch.
Obviously, she has to leave his bed in the morning. He gets that she has to leave. He gets that the spell of nighttime ends, and the day has to start. It just, frankly, stinks.
It stinks because… of reasons that he prefers not to acknowledge or read into. (She's just so… nice.)
Mostly, though, it stinks because the moment she leaves, he's on his own, and the fight begins anew. Mitchell vs. himself, round… well, he'd lost count of the rounds.
It stinks because the safety net lifts.
Brand new day. Bloody hell.